LETTER TO THE EDITOR: School Futures
I am a mother of a two year old toddler and I am contemplating moving to the Rossland area with my husband. We are looking at this as our permanent move and are eager to raise our daughter in a beautiful area with so many healthy opportunities. I was raised in the area and have extensive family throughout the region and am excited by the thought of returning home.
Before having my daughter I spent years as a youth leader working with
children from elementary through high school age. I have also coached adults and children in making educational choices for their future. Consequently, I have a strong love of children and am deeply concerned about the quality and strength of their connection to both their education and their community.
I have been researching the educational situation in the Kootenays with
growing concern. I am aware that the Board is facing a series of difficult
decisions and will ultimately have to make some unpopular choices.
My primary concern is about the Rossland Secondary School. My husband and I have researched all the statistics on the elementary and high schools in the Fruitvale-Trail-Warfield-Rossland area. We want our daughter to have a small school experience and we refuse to bus her. I know the snowfall that the Rossland area receives and daily bus trips in the winter season would hardly be without some white knuckle moments.
I also want my daughter to walk to school so that she learns to be self-reliant, is physically active and has flexibility in her educational scheduling. If she wants to stay late to participate in a club, or to do volunteer work in the community, that should be her right.
If RSS shuts down, our daughter would not go to Crowe in Trail. Crowe
continues to lag RSS academically and doesn’t have the strengths of RSS in
student engagement with their teachers. As a family we would have to
investigate whether or not to move to the Kootenays at all if Crowe was the only alternative. One very viable alternative to us would be homeschooling since we refuse to be pushed into an educational alternative that would worsen our daughter’s school experience.
In reading the minutes of the November Rossland community-Board meeting, a K-12 school seems to be a focus for many people. Parents overall, I feel, are not wedded to the idea of separate buildings for their children’s stages of education, but they are definitely wedded to the quality of the education.
Your mission as a Board is to make sure that any changes to the educational infrastructure doesn’t automatically mean a precipitous drop in the quality of the education for the students. An International Baccalaureate designation would help instill confidence in the quality of the academic offerings both to the current parents and to future residents also.
Has the district considered asking the parents in Rossland if they would like to seek the International Baccalaureate designation for their schools? Since parents in Rossland have a high level of post-secondary education they may be willing to pay the additional cost of the IB program. Parents in other schools around BC have chosen to do this so it is neither unheard of nor untried in our communities. Having this program would make Rossland a magnet for parents considering moving to the Kootenays but who are seeking a “big city” quality of education for their children. Since the IB programs works well within the public school system it would not present integration challenges but instead act as a marketing draw for the area.
The loss of a school does alter materially decisions parents make. When we
realized Montrose had lost its elementary school we no longer considered
moving there even though we love the area. So if the Board wants to make an area demographically older, eliminate the school. Families won’t move
there, only seniors and empty-nesters. If a city has a steadily aging
population it will gradually die. A healthy community takes all ages in
active engagement with each other. A town without a high school will have an aging population; will experience youth vandalism and behaviour issues since the remaining youth won’t be linked to their communities and the fabric of society will be ripped beyond repair.
I understand that this decision is difficult but it is about the well-being
of the whole community both now and in the future. Rossland’s children are her gift to the larger Canadian society and should be educated where they are best loved and nurtured, in a school close to the parents, grandparents and community members most concerned about raising a healthy capable child. Keep the superior educational opportunities that RSS provides in Rossland. And seek radical solutions. Cutting is a standard solution, seek the solution that will make a parent in Vancouver, Kelowna or Calgary go “wow, I wish my child was going to school THERE.”
And Mark Lawder
Note: This letter was also sent as a submission to School District 20.